It’s not a fatal blow to the amped-up Atlanta Braves bullpen, but it is an injury that strikes at the core of the Night Shift’s most senior member.
For those with continuous service, A.J. Minter might qualify just behind him, having debuted in August of that season.
Jackson is now a 30½-year-old grizzled veteran, in fact, and was ready to begin his sixth campaign as a member of the Braves… until this news popped up today:
If the tweet graphic isn’t visible, here’s the text from the Atlanta Braves press release:
"“RHP Luke Jackson recently underwent an MRI exam that revealed damage to his ulnar collateral ligament in his right arm. He is undergoing a comprehensive evaluation to determine next steps.”"
Those steps will be dependent on the extent of damage (presumably a tear of some size) to that ligament. Multiple sources indicate that the “Tommy John” procedure is certainly an option that’s on the table.
If Jackson yields to that surgical option, it will mean the end of his 2022 season before it even begins, and require a rehabilitation period that would almost certainly extend to roughly next year’s All-Star break (plus or minus).
While he could choose to take other paths such as a PRP (Plasma-Rich Platelets) treatment, that would be better for minimum tears … and yet such treatments have often not been sufficient to heal the tendon involved.
Regardless, we can expect Jackson to be placed on the team’s 60-day Injured List soon… which will allow the Braves to replace him without being counted against the 40-man roster’s limits.
Another predicament involves the calendar: if rest or PRP or other non-surgical treatments are selected, these delays to surgery could ultimately put the entire 2023 season at risk of being lost if the Tommy John surgery is ultimately needed anyway.
This is also Jackson’s last arbitration year with Atlanta — his “walk” year. Right now there’s no promise of baseball after 2022. It is thus possible that Jackson would have to prove himself to a team in mid-season 2023 once a TJ rehab stint has been completed… yet another difficulty to weigh in his decision-making process.
Jackson, a Ft. Lauderdale native, has a lifetime ERA of 4.24 … 3.93 with Atlanta… in 7 big-league seasons.
Last year, he had his best year ever: in 63.2 innings, Jackson posted a 1.98 ERA with 70 strikeouts and a 2-2 record, finishing 5 games in the process.
Jackson has had his ups and downs at times in a Braves uniform, but his electric slider and “all in” style has won over most fans since he first came over from Texas.
Unfortunately, there’s now a chance that the 2021 World Series (Game 4’s perfect 8th inning) could mark the last time we see him emerge from the bullpen in a Braves uniform. Let’s hope that’s not the case.